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Kyle investigates anonymous campaign newsletter

Monday, June 12, 2006 by

By Kate Harrington An anonymously authored publication that circulated in the city of Kyle in April and May has drawn the ire of Kyle City Council members and is now under investigation by city attorneys for potential violations of the state’s election laws.

Styled as a newsletter, the printed Kyle Klips and its online version www.kylenewsletteroftruth.com first appeared around the city in April, denouncing City Manager Tom Mattis and Council Member Todd Webster, who ran successfully to keep his seat on May 13. While the publication is anonymous, an HTML source code on the first online edition named Webster’s opponent in the council race, Serena Starkey, as an author. Starkey has denied any involvement in the publication.

The publication could be in violation of the state’s election laws because although it specifically opposes a candidate, it doesn’t identify itself as paid political advertising or name the responsible party. Texas election laws require an individual or group distributing political advertising that costs more than $500 to name a treasurer and submit expenditure reports, said Tim Sorrells, deputy general counsel at the Texas Ethics Commission.

On May 16, Kyle Council members voted 5-2 in favor of a resolution that directed the city attorney to investigate the publication and make a report to appropriate state authorities. Assistant City Attorney Sheila Limon is leading the investigation and said if she finds the publication violates the state’s election laws or the city’s ethics ordinance, she will make a report to the appropriate authorities.

"If any criminal violations are found, I will recommend we turn the findings over to the district attorney," Limon said Friday about the investigation. Depending on her findings, Limon said she might also turn information over to the TEC. She added the investigation is still underway, and may continue well into the summer. Limon refused to comment on her findings so far, or say if she thinks she will indeed find a criminal or civil violation of election laws.

While Kyle Klip’s authorship remains a mystery, part of Limon’s investigation includes the use of Kyle police officers to determine who is responsible for the publication’s statements and distribution.

The publication’s authors, perhaps unwittingly, made the investigation a little easier for Limon in late May when a link in the newsletter’s fourth edition showed a printing receipt, with the cost of making 15,000 copies listed as $866. The customer’s name was simply "warren warren."

After the council’s vote, the website’s administrators took down links to the newsletter and posted this statement: "Kyle Klips will temporarily be shut down due to the fact the Agent is out of state until after May 31. There is a need to turn in the notarized financial statement to be compliant with the guidelines of the Ethics Commission and this cannot be done until his return."

Starkey denied any involvement with the publication, saying she doesn’t know how or why her name appeared in the source code.

"I don’t know who could have put something like that together," Starkey said. "This is pretty shocking to me. It’s pretty scary too to think something is out there like that with my name on it. It’s not something I would do."

Starkey lost the race for Kyle’s District 2 seat to Webster, 232 to 104 votes. In her campaign finance report, Starkey listed total campaign expenditures as $500.61, including $403.61 for signs. The report lists no political contributions.

Board divided on ETJ transfer

An agreement that would allow some 425 acres of Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction along State Highway 71 to be annexed by the City of Lakeway has won a recommendation from the Environmental Board, but not without some misgivings about the deal.

The area, a few miles west of FM 620, will be the site of an intersection of a roadway that will connect the Lakeway area to SH 71, bypassing the heavily traveled 620-71 intersection in Bee Cave. Under the terms of the agreement, the 425 acres of ETJ, plus an additional 34 acres of county property on the western edge of tract, will be subject to water quality regulations at least as rigorous as those in the City of Austin.

Board Vice Chair Karin Ascot, noting that the area was likely to draw a large amount of development, had her doubts about the swap at last week’s meeting.

"I’m not sure we’re getting a very good deal here," she said. "We are looking at something that could have pretty intense development, and could have a great deal of impervious cover on it."

Her main objection was that Austin’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, which was brokering the deal, had not done a complete environmental impact assessment on the area.

The area, which is on the north side of SH 71 and would drain into Lake Travis through Hurst Creek, is not considered a critical water quality zone. But the acreage contains a large number of steep slopes and other sensitive environmental features.

Nancy McClintock with WPDR assured Ascot and other board members that the proposed regulations for the site would position buffers at the highest levels of the stream sites to give it additional protections.

However, Board Member Phil Moncada wanted more assurance that the water quality standards for the area would be up to Austin’s standards.

"When we looked at them, we found that Lakeway’s requirements were inferior to Austin’s in almost every respect," he said.

Ascot called for the board to delay action on the deal, and appoint a subcommittee to study the idea further. The proposals had been on last week’s City Council agenda, but had been pulled down and referred to the Environmental Board by Council Member Lee Leffingwell.

Rick Hightower, the representative of the landowner, said that a new school in the Lake Travis School District is planned for the area, and that a delay in the annexation could put that deal in jeopardy.

Ascot persisted, saying the board did not want to make a decision without more information, but Board Member John Dupnik said he felt that the matter had been referred to them for their opinion.

"It’s my understanding that the Council wants firm direction from us on this," he said.

The Board voted 4-2 to recommend the transfer, with Ascot and Dupnik voting no, and members Dave Anderson and Amer Gilani absent.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Washington visitors . . . Austin/San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith will hold a press conference at 9am today at City Hall to talk about his new legislation to encourage solar energy technology . . . U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary David Sampson and Tim Crowley, 2006 Chair, Greater Austin Chamber and President of Austin Community Banking Group, Frost Bank will hold a press conference at 12:30pm today at the Radisson Hotel. They will discuss "the critical role of immigration reform in the American economy" . . . Anti-tollers out tonight . . . Texans Against Tolls and other anti-toll roads groups are encouraging their supporters to show up en masse at tonight’s Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board meeting. The meeting, set for 6pm at the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center on the UT campus, will have an agenda item for a vote on Phase 2 of the Central Texas Toll Road Plan, which is part of the Texas Metropolitan Mobility Plan. Anti-tollers are being encouraged to arrive early enough to sign up to speak against the measure. They will also have signs to hand to out to hold up during the meeting . . . Libertarians choose candidates . . . At the Libertarian State Convention in Houston last weekend, the Libertarian Party of Texas nominated its slate of candidates for statewide office: U.S. Senator – Scott Lanier Jameson; Governor – James Werner; Lieutenant Governor – Judy Baker; Attorney General – Jon Roland; Comptroller of Public Accounts – Mike Burris; Land Commissioner – Michael A. French; Agriculture Commissioner – Clay Woolam; Railroad Commissioner – Tabitha Serrano; Chief Justice, Supreme Court – Tom Oxford; Justice, Supreme Court, Place 2 – Wade Wilson; Justice, Supreme Court, Place 4 – Jerry Adkins; Justice, Supreme Court, Place 6 – Todd Phillippi; Justice, Supreme Court, Place 8 – Jay H. Cookingham; Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 7 – Quanah Parker; and Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 8 – Dave Howard. Delegates also elected party officers for the 2006-2008 term: Chair – Patrick Dixon; Vice Chair – Kevin Tunstall; Secretary – Laura Coker-Garcia; and Treasurer – Geoffrey Neale . . . Meetings . . . The Board of Adjustment/Sign Review Board meets at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall . . . The Council’s Land Use and Transportation Subcommittee meets at 3pm in the Boards and Commission Room at City Hall . . . The Urban Transportation Commission will meet at 6pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . New names and faces . . . The Council made a number of appointments to various city boards and commissions last week. Named to the African-American Resource Advisory Committee were, by consensus, Lisa Byrd, Damon Gee, Tyra Duncan-Hall. Nelson Linder, Greg Marshall, Marva Overton, Jeffrey Richard and Joy Simmons; Melissa DeHaan was appointed to the Asian American Resource Center Advisory Board; Arial Cloud to the Child Care Council; Joe Arriaga, Julia Bunton. Jean Mather and John Rosato were reappointed to the Historic Landmark Commission; Marilyn Bostick was reappointed to the Parks and Recreation Board; Laura Wisdom was reappointed to the Renaissance Market Commission; Arthur Sampson was appointed by Mayor Pro Tem Thomas to the Telecommunications Commission; Kevin Cole was appointed by Mayor Will Wynn to the Urban Renewal Board; and Patrick Goetz was reappointed to the Urban Transportation Commission . . . Disaster volunteers sought . . . As the result of lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, the City of Austin has announced the formation of the City of Austin Technical Response Team (COATRT) to improve city disaster planning and responses. Chief Information Officer Pete Collins said the city is in need of pre-qualified volunteers for information technology support and other tasks such as telephone and IT network installations, asset management, software development, desktop PC support, WiFi system installations, and dispatching to assist the city’s response to future critical incidents. Beginning June 12, 2006, COATRT volunteer position openings will be posted on a special Web site ( www.cityofaustin.org/ctm/trt.htm) where applicants may browse through the various job descriptions. Applications will be submitted by e-mail. Interviews will follow, and selected persons will be subject to background security checks. After this process, applicants will undergo orientation and training. For information, call Collins at 974-2344.

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